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Sun Arise, Roll out the Chorus of the Dawn

I always thought that a sunrise is more magical and impressive than a sunset. My supporting argument is twofold:

  • First, I believe that most people, myself included, witness sunrises much more rarely than they do sunsets. This makes them more special and harder to take for granted. The fact that everyone is still up and busy around sunset hours makes it so that, unless you go to a secluded area to watch the sunset, you are probably surrounded by noise. During sunrise hours, most people are asleep and it is still quiet mostly everywhere.
  • Second, being awake to see a sunrise usually includes some effort on my part. I either stay awake through the night or wake up early specially to see it. This specific attempt to see a sunrise makes it easier to appreciate. This also means that when I'm watching a sunrise, I've either just woken up and I know breakfast is due, or I know that I'm going to snuggle in my bed and fall asleep without warning soon.

To add to that, a sunrise has another endearing feature to it - Dawn Chorus. That is the official name of all the bird-singing that you can hear in the morning. Nothing fits a cool, calm morning better than some bird-caroling.

I have noticed multiple times that you can hear birds singing even before the sun is noticeably rising; I recently heard a theory that might explain this- it's a cute one, but prepare your grains of salt nonetheless. First, allow me to shortly explain why dawn chorus is a thing in the first place, and why in the morning, anyway.

 
 

Let's start by mentioning that, like a rooster crowing at dawn, it is usually the male that makes all the noise, and he's not doing it for fun - singing to himself as he gets ready for a day of bird business and engagements. The role that the singing plays is to help the birds assert themselves - they make noise to keep other males out of their territories, and also to try and entice females to partner up and mate. In a way, the birdsong strikes two birds with one stone (I would like to apologize for that joke).

The reason why birds sing early in the morning is because of the perfect conditions. Usually, as I said before, mornings are the quietest time of the day. Everything is calm and there is no less wind, which makes the sound carry the farthest. This is simply the most efficient time to be noisy. It's a good thing that we consider it to be a nice sound rather than an annoying one.

Now, why do birds sometimes start chirping before the sun is even rising? Well, that, theoretically, is because birds don't want to be late to chorus practice. You see, the sun rises at different times in different places, depending on latitude (relative distance from the equator). The sun rises earlier in higher latitudes, farther from the equator. For example, let's take a look at Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and Phoenix, Arizona, USA - they are both just about on the same longitude, or meridian, but Edmonton is much farther north. Thus, today the sun has risen at 5:05 AM in Edmonton, and at 6:20 AM in Phoenix (after converting to the same time zones). That is a 1:15 hours difference. Even comparing Edmonton to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, which is much closer, shows a 15-minute difference in sunrise commencement time.

So birds up north, in Edmonton, wake up and start chirping at sunrise. Then, birds that are a bit more to the south of Edmonton hear their neighbors to the north proclaiming their territories and calling for mates. This starts a wave of birds waking up early to not miss out on the competition and join the chorus line. This wave travels fast enough that it gets to Phoenix before the sun has started rising over the Sonoran Desert, and so the birds start singing before the sun is even showing the first signs of climbing over the horizon.

At least that is what I have heard.

Also, I have to mention this cool fact - I spent the last couple of days working on this article, which revolves around the sunrise. I just had a reminder that I set up a few years ago, to remind myself that today, June 24th, is the anniversary of the release date of Opeth's 'Morningrise' album, one of my personal favourites.

Coincidence? Yes.

Thank you for reading this, I hope you found it interesting.

Daphne Semus Cyprus.